Elena Manferdini

Architect-fashion designer | Age: 32 | Home: Venice

Flexible Material: She earned an M.A. in architecture from UCLA, but it was in fashion that Italian-born Elena Manferdini hit on an idea that would distinguish her career: designing clothing to test ideas for buildings, then selling pieces to private clients. “The human body has all the complexities of an architectural scale,” she says. Concept into Practice: In 2004, she used computer software to make laser cutouts for her first fashion experiments. She applied a similar pattern of perforations on a steel screen at the 2006 Architectural Beijing Biennale. Though she’s busy with a commission for a museum in Italy, Manferdini also creates dresses and jackets twice a year. Museum Quality: One of her garments was shown alongside work by other designers with architecture training, such as Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne, in MOCA’s Skin + Bones show earlier this year. “Seaming was a major discovery, the way designers create the effect of curvature with flat fabric,” she says. “I use it on buildings.” Now Showing: Her fall collection is available by special order from ateliermanferdini.com.

Photograph by Sal Owen